Want to make most of your transition to retirement? Here’s the 4 must-dos.

The biggest life-transition you will face, other than marriage, is probably retirement – with its huge psychological, emotional and practical challenges. But there’s no guarantee this will happen to your greatest potential.

Indeed, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity offers possibilities for personal growth; through learning, retraining, sharing your life-skills and using them, travelling and friendship. Yet, like many others, you may struggle to adjust.

And there’s a reason.

When it comes to marriage – that other major life transition – there’s plenty of books, or preparation classes to help people make the best fist of it. But there’s much less on hand for those making the huge step to life after full time work.

So roll out the red carpet for an excellent resource on exactly that agenda. It’s a new five-star-rated book by Celia Dodd – Not Fade Away: How to Thrive in Retirement

It’s full of wise insight and practical advice, with Celia Dodd understanding fully why many find retirement surprisingly hard. ‘Part of the problem’, she said in an article for Mail on Line, ‘is the image of retirement feels out of sync in a world that places a high premium on being purposeful and busy – and where being stressed out is not only the norm, but a marker of success.

That means, for those heading for retirement, or already in that ‘promised land’, a new way of thinking is needed. To help people navigate it, Celia blends her own insights with that of experts in their fields.

For Celia that means 4 essential things at least and all set out in detail in her book. They are –

  1. Make the change at the best time and in best way.
  2. For past generations, the age of retirement was mostly set in stone. Now, due to new legislation, we are free to ‘carry on till we drop’. However, as Celia points out, this means retirement today offers a wide range of possibilities – from hitting the buffers to a gradual slowdown and everything in between.

    Celia notes the increasing popularity of ‘a mixture of part-time work, paid or unpaid consultancy and volunteering — which hopefully leaves time to have fun, too.’

    However, she believes some of the best retirement decisions are not entirely rational, saying, ‘With years of experience, we’re in a good position to trust our instincts.’

  3. Make plans in advance
  4. At a time of huge change, having a clear and realistic vision of what you want to get out of the next few years helps you be in control. And that involves nailing down expectations that include your health, relationships, leisure, well-being, voluntary work, possessions and more.

    This could be by shelling out for one of the ‘planning for retirement’ courses. Or taking a ‘do it yourself’ approach involving serious and focused conversations with those most impacted by what is going to happen next.

    Specific ideas are more useful than vague ambitions’, stresses Celia. Her challenge is to be clear as to where you’ll spend most of your time and what you’ll be doing, Who you’ll spend most time with and what new experiences are waiting for you.

  5. Manage the transition process
  6. In her book, Celia quotes the latest research which suggests the best way to cope is not to treat retirement as the end of the road. But as a transition on an equal standing to with leaving home or facing up experiencing an ‘empty nest’.

    This need not be overwhelming she stresses. Because, by this time of life, we should have learned lessons from past transitions. In her Mail on Line piece Celia quotes psychology lecturer Dr Oliver Robinson who says, ‘Many of the same issues come up in major life crises, such as identity, meaning, purpose. If you navigate through a crisis successfully and grow out of it, it should mean you’re well prepared for the next one.

  7. Create a new ‘you’
  8. For years you’ll have been defined by your role – book keeper, banker, builder, nurse, or whatever. With retirement, none of that fits. Gone is your role identity and the self-esteem and status that went with it.

    As someone Celia quotes in her book says, ‘Everything you’ve built up throughout your career disappears, and suddenly you’re just another old lady looking to do a bit of volunteering.’

    All of which means that finding a new and meaningful role and identity is key to keeping a smile on your retirement face. Celia even recommends that some need to start working on this well before the P45 is in their hands.

    As she says, ‘Playing in a band, taking an evening class, working on an allotment, being a member of a sports club or a book group can all form bridges between the old you and the new you.’

To be honest, what you’ve read here only skims the surface of a valuable book that runs to almost 300 pages. It’s wise advice for anyone determined to not fade away.

Celia Dodd’s book Not Fade Away: How to Thrive in Retirement is published by Green Tree at £12.99.

For more on the way the move from full-time employment can impact us see the AfterWorkNet website on Status.

What advice would you give to someone heading for the end of full-time work? Do share it here or with our Facebook group.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

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The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife